U.S. President Barack Obama is joined by former President George W. Bush in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington in this January 16, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Larry Downing/Files

In an interview with radio host Tom Joyner on Tuesday morning, President Obama engaged in a bit of blame-game politics.

Asked by Joyner about the current struggling state of the economy, Obama replied: “George Bush left us a $1 trillion deficit, and so it’s a lot harder to climb out of this hole when we don’t have a lot of money in the federal coffers.”

The “blame Bush” strategy is one that continues to have somewhat surprising political legs — even two and a half years after the Republican president left the political stage.

In a recent Associated Press-gfK survey, 51 percent said that Bush deserved “almost all” or “a lot but not all” of the blame for the “country’s current economic problems”. Just 31 percent said the same of Obama.

That 20-point disparity is, at least for the moment, Obama’s saving grace when it comes to the economy — since everywhere else he and his political team look the numbers are far worse.

In that same AP poll just 11 percent of people described the state of the nation’s economy as “good” (one percent said “very good”) while just one in three — 36 percent — approved of Obama’s handling of the economy.

The problem for Obama and his political team is that it’s not entirely clear how long the public will continue to put the lion’s share of blame for the economy on the last occupant of the White House.

Elections tend to be about the future not the past and Republicans are and will continue to do everything they can to make sure Obama owns the economy.

Democrats, naturally, are working to keep the blame from falling too heavily on President Obama but there have been slipups — most notably from Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) who said last month that “we own the economy”.

The crucial political fight of the next 14 months (or so) will be at whose feet blame for the struggling economy rightly lies.

Is it the result of bad spending decisions (read: tax cuts) and flawed economic policy put into place by George W. Bush that President Obama is doing his level best to get out from under?

Or is it the result of Obama’s early focus on health care, an economic stimulus bill that didn’t do as much stimulating as Democrats thought and an overall “more government is better” philosophy put into place over the last two-plus years?

Winning that argument almost certainly means winning the 2012 election.

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